Hanukkah: Jewish festival of light explained

Hanukkah commemorated the rededication of the Temple in Jerusalem after a group of Jewish soldiers defeated the occupying Greek army. The events took place in Judea more than 2,000 years ago, when the Syrian King Antiochus ordered the Jews to abandon their holy book, the Torah, and publicly worship Greek gods. In addition to commemorating the historic event, the festival looks to commemorate the triumph of light over darkness and spirituality over materiality.

What does the word Hanukkah mean?

The word Hanukkah means ‘inauguration’ or ‘dedication’.

After the rebellion, the Temple was in ruin, including the altar, and so the Maccabees buried the stones of the altar and built a new one.

The Maccabees is the name given to the rebels who fought against the Greeks, named after and led by Judas Maccabees.

Therefore, Hanukkah celebrates the rededication of the Holy Temple and the altar after its desecration.

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How is Hanukkah celebrated?

The main feature of Hanukkah is lighting the Menorah, also called the Chanukah.

The Menorah is an eight-branched candelabra with a place in the middle for a ninth candle, called the shammes, which is used to light the others.

One candle is lit on the first night of Hanukkah, and an additional candle is lit on each successive night.

This process is repeated until the eighth night, when the Menorah is fully lit with all the candles.

Hanukkah is also called the Feast of Lights or Festival of Lights due to the importance of the candle-lighting.

Traditional Hanukkah recipes include foods fried in oil, which are used to commemorate the original miracle of the oil.

During Hanukkah, dairy products are also popular among Jewish people.

Some of the most popular foods include latkes (fried potato pancakes), apple sauce, sufganiyot (deep fried or jelly doughnuts), and rugelach pastries.

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Consumer gifts were not customarily given during Hanukkah as the Menorah is supposed to recall the miracle, focusing on the religious event.

Traditionally, money was given to charity, with more donations given every day as each candle was lit.

This originated with the need for even the poorest people to have money for candles so they could celebrate the commemoration without shame.

It is customary to give children money on Hanukkah nowadays.

When does Hanukkah end?

This year, Hanukkah will end on Friday, December 18.

The celebratory religious event kicked off on Thursday, December 10 in 2020, with the same date applicable to Jewish people across the world.

Although the time of Hanukkah ending has not yet been confirmed, the eight-day festival ends at nightfall.

That means the time Hanukkah ends will depend on where you are in the world.

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